STUDY EIGHT: JOB’S TESTIMONY

© Rosemary Bardsley 2020

If we look at Job’s suffering we realize that he experienced every type of suffering common to humanity:

Financial/economic suffering (1:14 – 17),
Loss of security (1:14 – 17),
Loss of long term workers and associates, many of whom would have been trusted and loved (1:14 – 17),
Grief/bereavement from loss of close family (1:18, 19),
Physical suffering/pain (2:7),
Socially ostracized/excluded/cut off (2:8),
Relationship suffering (2:9 – 10),
Disappointment/unfulfilled expectations (2:9 – 10),
Misunderstanding/false accusations (2:11 – 13), both initially and throughout the debates with his friends.

As we read through the debates, and as we read Job’s testimony (chapters 29 – 31), we begin to understand which of these various sufferings was most difficult to bear. We also unearth deeper levels of suffering.

The three friends have stated their case, and have been unable to coerce Job into accepting their view of suffering and of God’s government of the world, in particular, their conclusion that God was punishing him for some sin or sins that he had concealed. They have ended their arguments. Job has rejected their solutions and advice, and here gives his final response to them.

 

A. THE GOOD OLD DAYS

In chapter 29 Job speaks of his life prior to his suffering, when he was held in respect by all (29:2, 7 – 10, 21 – 25). (29:11 – 20).

How does Job describe his life and reputation prior to his suffering?
29:2 – 3

29:4 – 5

29:6

29:7 – 10

29:11 – 12

29:13

29:14

29:15 – 16

29:17

29:18 – 20

29:21 – 25

In this chapter Job speaks of the sure awareness of God’s presence and protection that he had previously enjoyed, and the confidence he had then that that would continue. He speaks of the respect in which he was held by everyone because of the life he lived and the wisdom with which he spoke. In those days everyone knew he was a God-fearing man who constantly practised kindness and compassion.

His testimony about these good old days reflects the summary description of Job given by both the narrator and God in chapters 1 and 2.

 

B. BUT NOW ...

Chapter 30 begins with ‘But now …’ In this chapter Job speaks of the changes caused by his suffering, and we realize that the suffering instigated by Satan has brought on additional suffering not mentioned in Satan’s suggestions and accusations.

Read chapter 30. Make a list of the additional suffering Job experienced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we compare chapter 30 with chapter 29 we find:

Instead of respect there is mockery (30:1, 9).

Instead of holding the approval of all, he now seems to be totally rejected (30:10).

He even experiences verbal and physical abuse from the poorest type of men (30:1 – 14).

He experiences, because of this, fear, loss of dignity, and loss of all sense of security (30:15, 16).

All he sees ahead is relentless suffering (30:16, 17).

It seems that God is not listening (30:20).

It seems that it is God who is afflicting him in a particularly heartless way (30:18, 19, 21 – 23).

Because up to this point in his life his theology of suffering had been the traditional one, he is now in a position in which all of his expectations based on that theology have fallen crashing to the ground; this creates an inescapable inner torment, which is perhaps the greatest of all his suffering (30:24 – 27).

He is utterly desolate (30:28 – 31).

Job also listed the social and relational impacts of his suffering combined with the traditional theology in chapter 19. He feels totally isolated and alienated from everyone. It seems that there is no one at all who stands by his side with compassion and acceptance. No arm around his shoulders. No words of comfort. He is totally alone. Despised. Rejected.

Read 19:13 – 20. How is he treated by various people? And how would you handle such rejection?
19:13

 

19:14

19:15

19:16

19:17

19:18

19:19

 

C. ‘WHY ....?’

In his desperation, in his feeing of abandonment by God, the whole of chapter 31 expresses Job’s anguished, but also puzzled, ‘Why …?’

As we have seen, Job knows the popular, traditional theology expressed so strongly by his three friends. He knows it, and he had always believed it, without considering whether or not it was correct: God rewards the righteous with prosperity and punishes the wicked with suffering. Suffering is punishment from God.

Before his suffering, this theology of suffering was not a problem. But now that he has suffered and is suffering terribly, he knows that the traditional theology of suffering does not apply to his situation. It is not that he disbelieves that the wicked suffer. Rather, it is that he knows that his suffering cannot be because he is ‘wicked’. That God is causing his suffering he does not doubt. But just what God is doing to him and, more importantly, why God is doing it to him, he does not know. The traditional theology simply doesn’t make sense in his situation. (Remember, he knows nothing of the God/Satan dialogue in chapters 1 and 2. He knows nothing of Satan’s existence or of Satan’s opposition to God and to all who are loved by God.)

Read through chapter 31 and see how Job tries to reason it out.
His commitment to sexual purity – 31:1.

His knowledge of the accepted view of the way God governs the world (31:2 – 3).

His knowledge that God sees and knows everything he does (31:4).

The principles by which he governed his life and made his choices (31:11 – 12, 15, 23, 28, 32).

 

 

His willing admission of sin (31:33, 34).

 

Scattered through this chapter are a series of ‘ifs’. By these ‘ifs’ Job refers to a range of activities that he had deliberately chosen not to do because of the God-centred principles that governed his life.

Read chapter 31 again. Make a list of all the things Job was committed not to do. (The actions governed by the introductory ‘if’.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a deliberate choice based on his life-principles which arose from his knowledge of God, Job had deliberately avoided:

• Dishonesty and deception (31:5)
• Discontentment, covetousness (31:7)
• Lust (31:9)
• Injustice, partiality (31:13)
• Hard-heartedness, lack of compassion, mistreatment of the poor and needy (31:16 – 21)
• Various forms of idolatry - trusting in his wealth, worshipping nature (31:24 – 28)
• Vengeance (31:29 – 30)
• Lack of love/kindness towards strangers (31:31, 32)
• Concealing sin and guilt (31:33, 34).
• Failure to care for his land and his tenants (31:38 – 39).

It is instructive to think carefully about each of these, remembering that Job did not have God’s written word. These actions and attitudes that Job deliberately avoided because of his knowledge of God are the same actions and attitudes that are outlawed by both the Old and New Testaments. Most of them are outlawed by the Ten Commandments. Many of them are outlawed by the Sermon on the Mount, and like that Sermon go behind and beyond the actions forbidden by the Commandments to the sinful attitudes out of which the forbidden actions arise. See this study to observe how Jesus pushed behind the commandments to the attitudes.

In deliberately rejecting these attitudes and actions Job displays a knowledge of God that is embedded deep within his heart. He did not keep rules for the sake of keeping the rules. He did not even know the rules as we know them. He sought to honour God by the way he lived because he knew God, and, knowing God he knew what was appropriate and what was not. Just as, as Jesus said, the heart is the source of all evil, so also it is from a heart in touch with God and committed to God’s glory that right attitudes and actions arise.

Consider Job’s reasons for deliberately avoiding wrong attitudes and actions:

God allots disaster and ruin to the wicked (31:3).

Certain actions/attitudes are shameful, and deserving judgement and destruction (31:12, 13).

Humans are answerable to God for everything they do, or fail to do (31:14).

All humans deserve equal justice because God created all humans irrespective of their social status (31:15).

He dreaded being the target of God’s punishment (31:23).

He could not withhold compassion from the needy because he stood in awe of God’s splendor/majesty (31:23).

Any form of idolatry, any worship of anything other than God, would have demonstrated unfaithfulness to God on high (31:28).

The fear of what people would think of him did not dictate his actions. Sin is to be acknowledged, not concealed (31:33,34).

In this chapter Job’s testimony affirms what both the narrator and God himself have said about Job in chapters 1 and 2. At the same time it exposes the error of the accusations aimed at him by Satan and the three friends. It also highlights the foolishness of Job’s wife’s suggestion that he curse God and die.

None of these understand Job and his amazing faith.

Not even Job understands the greatness of his God-given faith, but even so there are some things that he does know, some things that he is certain of.

Job knows that God knows him and his life, and therefore this accepted view cannot be what’s happening to him. For if ruin is the prescribed punishment for the wrong-doer, then why does God, who sees Job’s life in all its details, allot ruin to him, for he is neither wicked nor a wrong-doer, and God knows it.

Job knows the morality and compassion that characterized his life. He knows that this morality and compassion resulted from his knowledge of God, and from the awe that God’s majesty and greatness induced. He lived the way he did because of who God was, not because of what God gave. Job stood in deep awe of God. Reverencing Him. Responding to his greatness, not twisting his arm for blessings.

Job knows that God, and only God, is worthy of worship. So he did not divide his confidence between God and his riches, nor did he divide his worship between God and God’s creation. His desire was to be faithful to God. This is the reason for his single-mindedness of faith and worship (31:28).

Confident in his relationship with God and his knowledge of God, Job knows that he is not sinless and guiltless, and sees no need to hide it.

The basic rationale of Job’s existence was that God is there, and God is awesome in majesty. Job’s life was grounded on God. Job’s over-riding desire was to be faithful to God, to so live that God’s honour was not compromised.

Study the following verses. To what extent did Job obey these verses even though he did not know them?
Jeremiah 9:23, 24

 

Matthew 5:16

 

1Corinthians 10:31

 

Colossians 3:23

 

1Peter 2:12

 

To what extent does Job’s practical expression of his faith challenge your obedience to these verses?

 

 

 

 

Read 6:8, 9. How do these verses express Job’s amazing faithfulness and commitment to God?